The Associated Press reports that judges may order the California correctional system to release one-third of its 158,000 adult inmates within a few years, due to severe prison overcrowding. Law enforcement agencies and residents are understandably concerned. Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed several eyebrow-raising measures, but not the obvious – remove the illegal aliens who are incarcerated to their home country instead of back to the streets of California. ICE has a program, known as Rapid REPAT to do just that.
Back in 2004, there were more than 23,000 illegal aliens identified in the California state corrections system (see the report on SCAAP grant distributions. ICE estimates that today about 20 percent of the state and local prison population nationwide are foreign-born, and that 50 percent of the foreign-born inmates are removable (see the Secure Communities report). Judging from local reports and other data sources, the proportion in California could well be higher. For instance, the four county sheriff’s offices (Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernadino and Riverside) participating in ICE’s 287(g) program have identified nearly 31,000 removable criminal aliens since 2005, and those are just the more serious offenders. There tend to be fewer illegal aliens in state prison systems compared with jails, but identifying and removing these individuals would seem to be a politically safer and fiscally responsible solution for the state.
Rapid REPAT offers early release and removal to non-violent offenders. Eligible aliens have to waive their appeal rights and face stiff penalties if they return. According to ICE, the state of New York has saved $148 million dollars, and the state of Arizona has saved $18 million by taking advantage of this program. It’s a no-brainer -- as Billy Mays would say, “Call NOW!”